What Happened

I looked for a friend,
And your heart was the clearest.
I called you my dearest,
And I was your fellow.
We stirred up the stars,
Dipped our brushes in moonlight,
Reached out in the blue night,
And painted it Yellow.

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Rhymes with…

I tried to write a poem for Thanksgiving. I tried to capture the warm, spiced scent of a crisp autumn day, the sounds of family mingling and chattering and enjoying being together, and the way the pies look when they collect themselves onto one table amidst the other desserts, awaiting their fate. I wanted to take all of the things that fall into Thanksgiving, all of the leaves and the pumpkins and the candy corn, and use them to draw our hearts upward to our Father, the Source of all good gifts. But I had no success. It’s not just that the list of things to be thankful for is too long, or that the desserts and the special time together are too sweet, or that I kept thinking of parts of Thanksgiving that I had accidentally left out, like singing songs around the piano or reading Bible verses about God’s goodness or picking teams for football in the yard. All of those things certainly added to the difficulty, but mostly I just had trouble with rhymes. It turns out most everything about Thanksgiving is orange.

Red and Lowering

I did a quick search for the word “red” in the Bible. It rarely means anything good. Red is the color of war and death, of vengeance and violence, of prostitutes and murderers. Red is the color of the stew for which Esau sold his birthright. Red is the color of the wine upon which we forbidden to look. Red is the color of the dragon in John’s vision of the last days. Christ once quoted a common saying about the weather. Though red sky in the evening bodes well, in the morning they would say, “It will be foul weather today: for the heaven is red and lowering.”

God is an expert at taking the negative things of the world and using them for His glory. The redemption of man was secured through death, which is the result of the very curse from which man was saved. The Red Sea that sealed a death-sentence for the people of Israel broke and became their salvation. The red cord, a sign of Rahab’s worldly occupation, became her only lifeline. The blood of Christ that was shed in mankind’s darkest hour became our brightest gift.

Christ closed the gap between earth and heaven. In order to pass from death to life, man must pass through His blood. That morning, heaven was red and lowering. But it’s not bad weather that it speaks of; these words written in red are Christ’s words of love to us: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.”

Teaser

Scott scribbled his name again. This time he didn’t even look at his hand; he just listened to the wax tip of the colored pencil brushing over the paper as it dropped off its signature trail. His ear tried to keep up with the pencil’s rapid changes in direction as he sounded out the spelling of his name. The S struggled around tight curves, probably on a mountainous road. The C took a pleasant walk around a sunny field before being chased around the O by the two Ts who stood straight and tall, their arms interlocked, daring anyone to try to break through. This was the sound of his name. Scott was a game of Red Rover on a mountain.

“Maybe that’s why my hair’s red,” he thought as he continued scribbling his name, attempting to fill every white space on the page.

Before Scott could finish his task, a sound came floating up the stairs and through the doorway, filling his room and covering the walls. It was his brother playing some music on the piano in the living room. The tune was unfamiliar but vivid. Scott quickly sat up, crossed his legs, closed his eyes, and waited for the colors.

For Decoration

The books of the prophets in the Old Testament are filled with warnings of approaching wrath and judgment. God’s justice is important, and it’s encouraging to remember that He will always have the final victory over those who rebel against His holiness. But even so, it’s easy to get lost amidst all of the bad news and wonder if there’s ever relief from the endless cycle of sin and judgment.

The book of Isaiah is one of the most complete revelations of God’s character in the Bible. Isaiah thrusts the reader into the darkest of days under the heaviest of God’s punishments then pulls him back up to the brightest, highest of mountaintops. One such mountaintop is in chapter 54. After a book full of judgment upon judgment, God promises that His mercy once bestowed upon His people will never cease. The cycle will stop, and judgment on His people will end.

Salvation from the holy wrath of an all-powerful God is more than anyone could ask for. To have a sure foundation that we can stand on is more blessing than we could deserve. But God, knowing what His people have been through, goes beyond simply promising a foundation. In soft and tender words, God reveals not only His mercy but also His infinite kindness, love, and tenderness: “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted.” Speaking soft words, He promises them, “Behold, I will set thy stones in fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy pinnacles of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy border of precious stone.”

Like a Father promising good gifts to the children in whom He delights, God promises His people that He will decorate the foundation and the dwelling of their life in color. They will not only be saved; they will be beautiful.

All people on earth are in one of two states: either they are currently bearing the weight of unpardoned sin, or they used to be. We all know what it’s like to be in danger of God’s impending wrath. Once saved, we are forever secure from condemnation. But beyond that, God has promised us blessings beyond what might enter into the mind of man. The work will not be complete until we are called to meet our Lord, but as we grow to be more like Christ, we can look at Him, the foundation of our lives, and see something beautiful, something colorful, something that reveals the kindness of our heavenly Father.

Life in Color

I’m learning every day. When I’m sitting in class, I’m learning facts and concepts that give me a fuller understanding of my world. When I’m with friends and family or when I’m observing people interacting, I’m learning about human nature and what makes people tick. When I’m reading the Bible and spending time with my Heavenly Father, I’m learning about the purposes that He has for me and for everything in life.

Because I’m constantly learning, my perspective on everything is constantly changing. Bits and pieces of ideas and truths swirl around my head, connecting and disconnecting, reflecting, refracting, and reworking themselves into new and different shapes.

Over recent years, I’ve noticed a trend in everything that I learn. As I allow God’s Word to fill my mind and become the lens through which I see everything, the world appears as an increasingly wonderful place. By “the world,” I don’t mean the selfish, sinful, sensual side of the world. That becomes darker and blacker as I turn towards the light of the Son. But the overarching story of the world, a story of God’s redemption of man, and the bits of God’s glory that are clearly carved into every bit of the Universe’s fabric sparkle with meaning and purpose.

Knowing that everything in this world is under a curse from the fall of man and that this world is merely a shadow of things to come, I’m overwhelmed with excitement about what God has planned for the future. And I’m overwhelmed with humility when I think that He would allow me to play a part in it.

“The kaleidoscope claims another;
This is Life in Color.”

~ OneRepublic

Future Plans

When I began The Smaller Half, I wanted to write a blog post every day for a year. Somehow or other, I did just that. I even continued blogging for another year, albeit slightly less often. Through the course of this blog’s history, I’ve written dozens of poems, a couple short stories, and hundreds and hundreds of posts containing varying degrees of substance. And now I feel like everything about this particular chapter is winding down.

After the end of this year, I am going to stop updating this blog. It’s a decision that I’ve been pondering for a while, and perhaps one that I should have acted on sooner. I feel The Smaller Half has served its purpose, and I would like to end it in a controlled manner rather than letting it slowly fizzle away.

I have no plans to stop blogging. Before I let this subdomain rest, I will have a new outlet for sharing my thoughts in a slightly different format. I’ll communicate that here as soon as it’s all solidly in place. Until then I’ll continue posting here like normal, though I hope to write a bit more deliberately in order to adequately wrap everything up and avoid leaving a mess when I move out.

Thank you, reader, for making me a small part of your life. I hope to continue sharing adventures in a meaningful way as we look towards the new year. I have much to share, and this was only the smaller half.

Because Grad School

In 8 hours (some of which I hope to spend sleeping) I will take a test on the textual history of the gospels and the book of Acts. I have not really studied at all for this test up to this point. Because grad school. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Back to the books…

Clean Coffee

I just made myself a cup of coffee. I know it’s rather late to be making coffee; I have some homework to get done tonight (“and miles to go before I sleep…”) and I just really needed something hot to drink. But that’s the point.

I poured the coffee and mixed in the proper amounts of organic cane sugar and horrendously non-organic hazelnut-flavored creamer (I just buy whatever looks best on the shelf), and then set it down to cool for a bit before drinking it. (I’m particular about the temperature of my coffee. Here ends the overabundance of parentheticals.) Anyway, I eventually did take a sip of this coffee. It tasted bad. It wasn’t a “this is a bad brand of coffee or creamer” sort of bad, nor was it a “this is a little burnt or a little too weak” sort of bad. It was more of a “this tastes like old coffee” sort of bad.

Now, I had just brewed the coffee, so I knew that it couldn’t be old. My only thought was that I had failed to properly clean something since the last time I had brewed coffee. Which is entirely possible. When my school schedule gets crazy and interrupts my normal sleeping patterns, my dish-washing schedule gets sporadic. It’s not unlikely that I would glance at a cup or a coffee pot that looked clean and assume that I had washed it when, in fact, I hadn’t. So I washed everything. I washed my mug and my coffee pot and ran clean water through my coffee machine a couple times and wiped everything down real good.

I allow you an honest glimpse of this less-than-perfectly-organized side of myself in order to draw a parallel that came to mind as I was laboriously scrubbing my coffee pot over my tiny dorm-room sink. It occurred to me that the fruits of my Christian life are like coffee. They begin as thoughts, brewed in my brain and passed through the coffee machine of my mind, before they’re presented as actions and words in the cup that is me. And sometimes those things just taste bad.

I don’t always know my own heart well enough to see my own sin. David the Psalmist had the same experience. He begged God to search him and find any wickedness that was in him. Wickedness is easy to see once it’s poured out in words and actions, but the true root of wickedness is in the heart. If the heart is dirty, the deeds will taste bad. And no amount of organic cane sugar or hazelnut creamer will change the true nature of that coffee.

Fortunately, God is willing and able to clean us from the inside out. He sent His own Son to die so that we could be clean. David looked forward to this when he penned the encouraging words, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. … Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Chiastic

Our song is a familiar tune.

It’s like I was never truly empty-hearted;

My heart rang with echoes of who you are,

But I was never listening closely enough to realize it.

So many times I would sit under this diamond-freckled sky,

Not realizing that the face I could almost feel beside me was yours.

But now, as I trace back all the moments that keep going by,

I hear the story again, and I’m starting to recognize it.

Though every moment feels like a new star,

We’re somehow back where we started,

Singing under the moon.